Class Notes

Lesley Hazleton wrote an excellent passage in her book the First Muslim about Muhammad, it goes, “To idealize someone is also, in a way, to dehumanize them, so that despite the millions if not billions of words written about Muhammad, it can be hard to get any real sense of the man himself.  The more you read, the more liable you are to come away with the feeling that while you may know a lot about Muhammad, you still don’t know who he was.”

I love this because I think it applies to so many historical figures.  With our Founding Fathers, I think we have idealized them for so long, as we should, that when we learn their flaws, we want to rip them down from their pedestals.  Literally in some cases.  I believe many historical figures are worthy of our praise, but maybe by treating them as demigods instead of men, we have set them up for failure. 

I have also seen this with marginalized groups in history.  To make up for years of bad treatment we have gone too far the other way now in history where we idealize them.  By making them now always right and good, we take away their humanity.  Historians mean well, but in the long run I am not sure we are really helping them.    

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